The 3rd week of #IMMOOC had us reading about the power of relationships and leaderships in innovation. The blog prompt has us reflecting on how far we’ve come with our thoughts about teaching and education.
In my previous career, I was an academic. I spent 12 more years in school after I graduated high school, and learning was basically my job. I got very good at it, but being immersed in it pushed me toward having a more fixed mindset about education. In that environment, it’s common to hear things like “you’re either smart or your not“, or “you can make a living with your brain or your back, you need to choose one“, or “if you’re not naturally smart, you should just give up.”
So, as you can imagine, when I heard about students getting accommodations for assignments, or others wanting to re-write a test (and it being granted), or when other went for extra help, I would immediately think they were weak, no smart enough, lazy, or all of the above.
That was the atmosphere I was in, and it was a bit cut throat. It was common for extremely intelligent people to think they didn’t belong there even with plenty of evidence to the contrary (known as imposter syndrome).
During graduate school, I started a number of science education and outreach programs and began to work with teachers and schools directly. These interactions pushed me out of my academic bubble and made me see education from different perspectives. I started to learn the difference between equality and equity, that the process of learning looks different for everyone, and being “smart” or the ability to learn is not a fixed trait.
The more I learn about the psychology of learning, the more empathy and understanding I have for all learners. In fact, my teaching philosophy now is based on the ideas of differentiated instruction, creating supportive and positive learning environments, and encouraging a growth mindset about learning in my students.
I do catch the old-school academic thoughts creeping back in from time to time, and it often makes me stop and reflect. Often it’s when I’m frustrated with students, and I’m not sure why they’re “not getting” something. At times like these, I really try to put myself in their place and feel what it’s like to learn something new.
I wrote a while back about how my hobby of knitting often reminds me of what it’s like to be a learner, and that’s a good thing to practice as an educator!